One of my pastor friends told me he gets genuinely sad every evening because there’s always so much more he wants to do with the day. I suspect we’re all something like this. The evening brings me face to face with the reality of my limited life. There’s so much we wanted to do or at least that we felt we should do.
We’re frustrated because we had no time for free time. Or we’re embarrassed because we squandered it all on free time.
The evening, then, can be a time of severe self-judgment. I often find myself lying in bed and facing the reality that I spent the whole day trying to justify my existence on earth. The scary reality hangs from the ceiling like a bulb that won’t turn off. Does any of it matter?
That’s a worrisome thought, and because of it, I want to tune everything out. And many of us do. A drink sounds nice; two sound better. Sex sounds good; porn is easier. A conversation would help, but binging on TV will let me tune out. Catching up on reading would be restful; Twitter has some notifications that are probably more urgent. Lauren and I should spend some time talking; talking is hard, and there’s a podcast of a sermon that everyone said we should listen to.
The exhaustion of the day places us into a twilight where it isn’t easy to make the right decisions. Because our bodies and our minds and our souls are all bound up together, we have trouble making choices. The business world calls it “decision fatigue.” The evening is a time of vulnerability. We haven’t spent the day so much as the day has spent us. When our exhaustion gives way to our addictions, we’re exposed for who we really are.
This is where an evening prayer can make one last and important turn in the day. Perhaps it’s once the work is done, the dishes are clean, or the kids are asleep that we pause to pray, to purposefully frame the evening in rest instead of letting it slip into something else. Shall we lie awake in bed, letting all the replay tapes run? Shall we browse our phones for some recent celebrity scandal to bounce meaninglessly around our brain? Or shall we walk intentionally toward the rest we know we need?
No one can sleep while believing she needs to keep the world spinning. But real rest comes when we thank God that we don’t need to, because he does. Thus we kneel by the bed and place the period of God’s mercy and care for us at the end of the day. It doesn’t matter whether you feel spiritual or not. It doesn’t matter whether you know what to say or not. It doesn’t matter whether you’ve said the same thing every night for a month. It’s just habit. You say your prayers until your prayers say you. That’s the goal.
Adapted from The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Earley. Copyright © 2019 by Justin Whitmel Earley. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515-1426. www.ivpress.com
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